News and current affairs programmes will not be permitted on any private cable television channel in the Kashmir Valley till the end of the Assembly elections later this year.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who holds the Home portfolio in his Cabinet, admitted in a reply to the People’s Democratic Party member Naeem Akhtar’s question in the Legislative Council on Friday that the news and current affairs operations on all cable TV channels had been ‘banned’ in the Valley due to the violent political turmoil of 2010. He said some text data and communication services had been suspended so as “to prevent breach of peace and any law and order situation.”
Mr. Abdullah said that the private TV channels had violated the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act. The SMS on the pre-paid mobile phones, he said, had been used by the anti-national elements for spreading “false and frivolous rumours which have a potential to incite violence.”
“With the continuation of ban on these services, spread of rumours and false propaganda against the government has declined to a large extent. With the emergence of new technologies, there is a need to relook at the issue but keeping in view the elections to the Lok Sabha, followed by the elections to the State Assembly, it would not be appropriate to suggest revocation of ban at this stage.”
Even as cable TV networks do not have the mandate under the 1995 law, all of them used to operate news and current affairs programme in most of the major towns till the Amarnath land row of 2008, when all services were frozen by the District Magistrates. These were, however, restored when peace returned after the State elections with a historic voter turnout in December 2008.
Under the law, cable TV networks can carry sports, education and entertainment programmes and only licensed satellite channels registered with the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are authorised to run news programmes.
The services remained intact in Jammu due to stability of peace and political patronage. In Kashmir, these were permanently withdrawn when over a hundred people got killed and hundreds were injured in another street turmoil in 2010.